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Authors: Michael M. Thomas


BOOK: Fixers
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Copyright © 2016 by Michael M. Thomas

First Melville House Printing: January 2016

Melville House Publishing
46 John Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
8 Blackstock Mews
London N4 2BT

ISBN (hardcover): 978-1-61219-498-1
ISBN (ebook): 978-1-61219-499-8

Designed by Marina Drukman

A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress

This is a work of fiction. The principal characters, those with speaking parts, are wholly creatures of the author’s imagination and invention. The transactions and situations in which they are involved, however, are matters of historical record.


For Tamara—with love, gratitude, and so much else

The law doth punish man or woman
That steals the goose from off the common
But lets the greater felon loose
That steals the common from the goose

—seventeenth-century English rhyme



FEBRUARY 17, 2007

Gibbon records in his autobiography that the idea of writing
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
came to him while listening to “the bare-footed friars singing in the Temple of Jupiter.”

My own authorial epiphany, the spur to keep a diary that will be a firsthand account of a potentially nation-changing scam that I have been asked to carry out, came twelve hours ago as I stood on the corner of Madison Avenue and 76th Street and watched a multimillionaire investment banker climb into a $75,000 Mercedes SUV to be driven north to his twenty-acre Connecticut estate, where he’ll spend the weekend hammering away at a collection of museum-quality harpsichords. That’s about as far from bare-footed as you can get.

The man’s name is Leon Mankoff. My former CIA boss and mentor and a current consulting client, he’s the CEO of Struthers Strauss (henceforth referred to by its trading symbol: STST), the giant investment bank and globe-bestriding power in the world of high finance. A firm admired, envied, feared, and hated by its competitors, adored by its clients and people. I’m no special fan of Wall Street myself—but if “the Street” didn’t generate the kind of wealth that underwrites the philanthropies I advise on, I wouldn’t have a job.

To jump ahead, let me tell you where I’ll be going with this. This morning, in the course of a coffee-shop breakfast, Mankoff asked me to fix next year’s presidential election.

That make your jaw drop, Gentle Reader? It should. It certainly did mine. As I thought when he described what he had in mind, “Jesus, man! You’re talking about the biggest goddamn bait-and-switch in history!”

The better part of an hour later, after he’d gone into some
detail about what he has in mind, as I watched his car pull away, it occurred to me that if I go along with Mankoff’s plan, I’ll have the opportunity not only to be at the center of a defining moment in the history of American politics, but to furnish future historians with an accurate insider transcript of what was said, what got done, and why.

I think the future will value such an account. The great story of our time, according to many observers, has been the takeover of Washington by Big Money, namely Wall Street, and the other private-sector “Bigs”: Big Pharma, Big Transportation, Big Realty, and the like. The record I intend to keep, if I accept Mankoff’s commission—and there’s still some heavy thinking I have to do about
—should shed new and penetrating light on how the power game is played.

The exercise of power in America today is almost entirely an insider’s game that completely shuts out 99.9 percent of the population, which is never made truly privy to the backstage dealings that decide matters of great pith and moment—which in this great, shining republic generally run to the issue of who is to get what and for how much, with the bulk of the money coming from the full faith and credit of the American taxpayer. We groundlings are never told what was actually, exactly said and agreed, as opposed to what
—with a capital T—and their stooges in the media tell us. You might say I intend to bridge the gap between the true facts of the matter and what the public will have been told.

People argue that untrained palates profit little from knowing how the sausage gets made, and presumably this is true of both pork and politics (no pun intended, although I recognize that today the two are one and the same). I disagree. In my book, knowledge is life, ignorance is death, and if you doubt that, just check out America’s politics in this year of Our Lord 2007. I think
of myself as apolitical, with a diffidence born of contempt, but I flatter myself that I have some sense of what’s going on and going down in this great nation—certainly enough to conclude that if the United States and what it theoretically has stood for is destined to perish from this earth, the prejudice-driven, media-assisted ignorance of its citizens will have been a principal cause no less than the opportunism, hypocrisy, and venality of our corporate chiefs and elected representatives.

If I go ahead, I will do my damnedest to set down only what I believe to be absolutely necessary to my reader’s understanding, although I may permit myself the odd splash of characterization, or local or historical color.

So this will be my gift to history: fifty years from now, historians will have an accurate record of one of the most astounding political capers in U.S. history—provided I pull it off, as I think I can. I should also say that keeping this diary and ultimately making it available to history offsets certain moral qualms I have about the job.

While I obviously have in mind such immortal diarists as Pepys, Herzen, or my special favorite, George Templeton Strong, a man about New York at the time of the Civil War, it feels more natural to me to use the first-person narrative tone and style and address the reader directly: hence “Gentle Reader,” as I shall call her or him into whose hands this journal may someday pass. I think I express myself best if I write in the same voice in which I’d tell this story to a friend over lunch.

Now: let us begin.

It all started last night, around 11:45 p.m. I was falling asleep over my bedtime reading and about to turn out the light when my phone buzzed. I recognized the number on the caller ID. It was Mankoff’s private number.

This surprised me. I’ve known Mankoff for thirty-seven years;
I worked directly for him for a good part of a decade, and never but never—except on one occasion when a foreign-exchange maneuver in Bolivia went the wrong way and we had to backtrack and start damage control at warp speed—have I known him to call outside office hours, notwithstanding that STST prides itself as being a 24/7/365 hive of activity, holidays included. The only thing Mankoff and I have on our plate right now is a proposal for a named chair in Baroque Performance at Indiana U.’s famous music school, which hardly warrants a midnight call.

BOOK: Fixers
12.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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